Purrfect Pet-Sitting! (Part 2)

I was surprised and so happy that in the 12hrs after my cat-sitting posting went ‘live’ I got about 6 applications! Single people, couples, some traveling in Canada at the time, some retired and living not far from me, some willing to come to my home from England and the US. I’ve since learned that for those offering to pet-sit, there is a daily ‘e-mail blast’ that they can subscribe to that shows all new listings. Smart.

The next part was a little overwhelming for me and I’m not sure I can tell you why. I read each application e-mail carefully, looked at each of the potential pet-sitters profiles, read what others have said in their reviews of candidates’ pet-sits, looked at their ‘verification level’ (basic, mid or advanced in terms of security check), and their level of cat-experience.

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One couple who applied were exceedingly experienced and from the local area as well. They were a retired professional couple who had many international long and short duration pet-sits. In fact, as part of their letter to me, they provided a link to a Toronto Star article which was written about them and their pet sitting. With their immense experience and my lack of experience, I thought this would be a perfect fit. I contacted them using the in-site messaging system, and we discussed the cat-sit. I was suddenly much more comfortable – they seemed amazing and very trustworthy. They asked if I had photos of the home.

Good photos are integral to your profile. People react to images – like in adopting out kittens, selling your home, or posting a dating profile. The necessity of having photos for success in securing the right people was apparent to me and I ran around the house taking photos of rooms the pet-sitters would use. It was an overcast day and frankly, everything would have looked nicer in the sun, but I didn’t have time to obsess since my profile was up for 18hrs without any images. Though the site tells you to add many photos to make your profile interesting and engaging, I was only able to upload 6… no matter how I tried or reduced the size of the images I was using. It turns out that their system only allows 6 at this time.

I also uploaded photos of Nuala, Shadow and Cooper with short descriptions of each – there’s a photo section for your pets.

 


My potential cat-sitters were delighted to see the photos and agreed to the pet sit. I was relieved, excited and happy – until a day later when they cancelled; needing to be elsewhere because of an illness of a friend. This was understandable, but it does highlight a potential challenge with this system. Sitters might cancel. You need a back-up if things don’t work out. Imagine if this happened last-minute!

Luckily, I’d had 4 excellent applications (I had 12 in total – and I ‘shut off’ my posting after 2 days so I wouldn’t get more). In a matter of hours, I chose a couple who I had a great feeling about. We messaged back and forth and had a face-time chat from their pet-sit in England. They are semi-retired as he can work from home anywhere in the world. They were warm, engaging, knowledgeable and funny – able to answer all my questions. We ‘clicked’ and we agreed that they’d come and pet-sit for me.

I want to highlight that I found it helpful to:

  • Schedule and have a face-time or skype conversation – a real conversation will have much more depth and give you an idea if this is the right fit for you. I am ridiculously inept with this – I never use video calls. My first was to my pet sitters. I muddled through – they were forgiving. If I can do this, you can too.
  • Make a list of all the questions I had for the pet-sitters – so I wouldn’t forget them when we were talking. Read the company online material on how to organize pet-sits.
  • Make a list of the ‘truths’ about us that I’d want them to know – things that might put someone off. I was very upfront about Shadow’s nervous stomach and the fact that she throws up 2-3 times a week and that they would only need to wipe up – that I’d wash the floor before and after the pet-sit. That they shouldn’t worry about this. That Nuala is litter-sensitive and would try to pee standing up (and get some outside the box) if she had to go more than 24hrs without the litter being cleaned… you get the idea.
  • Be up-front about house rules. One person would have friends come and visit her in our home (but not stay overnight) – this came out in the video call. That just wasn’t a good fit for me – not that there’s anything wrong with it. Other simple things – I was clear – no shoes in our home and absolutely no smoking of any kind. Again, you get the idea.

This whole process was more detailed and personalized than interviews I’ve done with local pet-sitting services before hiring them. Frankly, putting in significant thought and consideration into your ‘interview’ process pays dividends throughout the pet-sit. Ultimately, you are responsible for who will be coming into your home as your ‘guest’. Most are doing this with care and good intentions – but you need to be sure and comfortable that it’s a good match. It’s always possible that there are some in it for selfish-only reasons; less concerned about the pets and unable to manage the house responsibilities – a reality of human nature. In a sense, both sides are taking a leap of faith so make sure you look carefully before you leap.

Like anything, there can be negatives:

  • Time investment to get this all set up and organized;
  • Some breakage from regular use of household items;
  • For security reasons you should lock away valuables;
  • Your dates or your location may not draw enough pet-sitter attention (your profile and pictures become more important);
  • Departure timing/ flights times need to be clearly discussed/managed. Plan to have sitters arrive early and give yourself a sufficient buffer (perhaps they need to come hours or a day early);
  • Utility (and internet) costs might be higher than your normal usage.

The next step was offering the cat-sit to this couple through the site and having them accept the dates. This is the on-site confirmation of the agreement. I’d spent hours making the suggested ‘Welcome Guide’ for the sitters… everything from emergency contacts, to vet info, to house info. When someone ‘accepts’ your offer of the pet-sit, you simply click to send this guide to them. You only need create it once… because it is saved on your profile for future use.

This is already too long, so let me skip forward. The couple arrived at the time we’d agreed and were kinder, more responsible, more wonderful than I could have hoped for. It immediately felt like I knew them and could trust them. I gave them a tour of our home and cats and felt good about leaving them in charge.

We went away for 2 weeks – and had updates regularly from our pet-sitters. They are amazing people who left my home in immaculate order, spoiled my kitties so much that they were too-pampered, and who were more trust-worthy than anyone I have ever had to look after my cats. My first experience was an amazing one. I would have these people back in a heart-beat.

We’d also planned months ago for another week away – and I’d planned to have a neighbour come for a quick visit each day. Instead, I posted this week on the site once I had the membership – and invited one of the 4 great couples who had applied to the first post to apply for this one instead. They were able to come for this week – so we met via face-time, made plans, and they booked their flight from England to visit our home and area. Guess what? They too were great.

It will never be easy for me to leave my home and pets in someone’s care honestly. That is the downside of being a private person and homebody. However, I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried this new paradigm of pet sitting – and this particular company – TrustedHousesitters. This is a good fit for me, for us, and for our cats who have been very happy with this. Well, perhaps Cooper would rather we never leave; he still hides from everyone new (for days on end) but that is a story for another day! IMG_4204 (2)

Here’s the info again in case you are curious: https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/WxumAgrh

This link above is my ‘personal referral’ and what that means is that if you sign up, you’ll get 20% off the price I paid to join. Or use this code at check-out for the same results: RAF218163. And, I’ll get 2 free months of service on their site. When you join, it’s for a year of using the site – as many pet sits as you want. I didn’t have a referral, so I paid full price (poor me). They are not paying me to recommend them or any such thing – 0 kickbacks and just my honest opinion. Though if they decide to give me extended free membership, I’d take it.

Got questions? I don’t mind answering questions about this service or it’s structure. You will get honest answers – from someone who has been a member for 2 months and had 2 pet-sits in her home (3 weeks of sitting total).

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Purrfect Pet Sitting? (Part 1)

Canada- this is for you. USA- yes it’s for you too. Europe? Yes – you as well. Australians – not sure – try it and let me know! And England and the UK… it’s for you and by you… so thank you!

Many of you cat-lovers find yourselves in the same situation as J and I do. We’d love to travel – visit family who are not close, or go on a week’s vacation, or explore a new country – but a huge concern and hurdle is what we’d do with our kitties.

There is no doubt in my mind that cats would be happiest at home. Cats are so location and habit-bound – it is inherent in their nature. So what do you do? Ask neighbours to drop by? Do you hire a visiting pet-sitter? Someone to stay in-home and provide company as well – despite the costs? Beg family or friends for a big fat favour?

In the past we’ve done a number of these things – and combinations. No one choice or combo was satisfying and the right fit.

We used to have the most amazing pet sitter: a man who was incredibly reliable, a life-long animal-lover who managed a pet store for some time – someone trained and certified in pet first-aid as well as bonded with insurance. He was a dream to work with and worth his weight in gold. He was the person who gave the meds to Nuala’s littermates and mom when we needed to go away. Not everyone can find someone as great as Keill. I wish everyone could – and frankly I will be forever thankful to him for the care he gave our furry friends – fosters and pets.

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Nuala and her litter-mates when they were my foster kitties

When he retired, things went sideways. I called and tried out a number of ‘services’. None were even close to as good as what we’d had. Some were late. Some were dodgy. And the one that did me in was listed as a reputable agency for the whole area, but up-charged ‘distance’ to come to our centrally-located home, failed to provide me with the documents promised, showed me expired liability insurance, and told me that my business was not wanted by them when I asked for their updated liability insurance. What a nightmare! I wish I reported this to the BBB.

No wonder home-owners and pet-lovers are so afraid to leave their homes and pets. We’ve barely been away this past 3 years. Cooper is definitely not used to having us away.

But sometimes life offers you wonderful opportunities for experiences… so if that involves going away, what do you do? I ran into this 8 weeks ago. I had 4 weeks to make pet-arrangements and leave on a two week dream-trip.

Years ago a friend told me about a service she used to leave her cats when she was going on vacation. The prospect seemed interesting but I had concerns. I noted the site, and put it aside. Now, I questioned her and perused the site a number of times. I spent a day looking around, considering their ads, FAQ, as well as the postings I could see, and then discussing it with J. I decided to move ahead – and pay to join this pet-sitting service: if I got one good week of pet-sitting in the year, then it would be worth the $130Cnd membership price.

The premise is simple – and also simply genius. Willing pet sitters offer to care for your animals and home for free while you are away. You offer them a nice place to stay. You gain house/pet sitting services and they gain free accommodation. Your pets get long hours (not just a quick visit) of care and play each day while your house is not visibly vacant, but occupied. They get a free comfortable and clean home to stay in – while they might be traveling to a city they’ve always wanted to see. It’s an idea born out of the ‘sharing culture’ – a bartering of services.

Yes it’s FREE beyond the annual membership fee. Both sides don’t charge for anything.

I’m a very private person and this would not be 100% comfortable for me. It would feel very strange having people I barely know coming to stay in my house – sleeping in my bed and cooking with my pots and pans. But having my home and kitties cared for by other ‘proven’ animal lovers was a prospect I couldn’t ignore.

I paid and began working on our profile: I was rushed since my time was so tight before departure. I had just 3.5 weeks to post our ‘home/cat sit’, get applications from those interested, respond and review candidates, and make the final arrangements. A second worry for me was that I’m in suburbia – and thought I’d post my home/cat sit and perhaps get no responses because no one would want to come – or the site wouldn’t have enough people on it to generate house-sitters for me.

There were three sections to the profile; an intro, about the home and area, and about the responsibilities and pets. I knew that people wouldn’t know anything about me, my home, or my cats, so I had to be clear with our expectations, the duties involved, and also be honest but ‘sell’ our home as a great place to be. (I mentioned that I was nervous that I’d get no responses to my post, right?) The best way for me to do this was to think of why I loved my house and living here – and convey that.

I posted my profile on the site that same day. I set up the dates I wanted for our cat-sit the next day when my profile went ‘live’.  This process took time, and frankly there were a number of actions on the site that didn’t seem intuitive. I had to send the company a couple of messages for things I couldn’t figure out on my own. They provide a live chat – but they are in the UK and off-times for me here. So they responded by e-mail and I found this helpful.

I’m going to write this in two parts… more tomorrow… only because I’m tired and I’m starting to realize just how long my post will be.

 

The website? https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/su/WxumAgrh

I can offer you this – the link above is my ‘friends and family referral’ and what that means is that if you decide to sign up with Trusted Housesitters, you’ll get 20% off the price I paid to join. Or use this code at check-out for the same results: RAF218163. And, I’ll get 2 free months of service on their site when the code is used – so thanks in advance. Membership is for a year of using the site – as many pet sits as you want. I didn’t have a referral, so I paid full price.

They are not paying me to write this – 0 kickbacks and just my honest experience. Though if they decide to give me free extended membership, I’d be a fool to refuse.